8 Signs Your Reporting Strategy May Need an Overhaul
Most businesses rely on generating and reviewing various reports to analyze operations and make better decisions. On the surface, all forms of reporting might seem like a good thing; after all, greater available information should lead to better decisions.
In some cases, though, reporting strategies can become bloated, inefficient, or even worse, misleading. Is your reporting strategy in need of an overhaul?
The Best and Worst of Reporting
Essential reporting is critical for a company to succeed today. Your closest competitors are likely reporting on their internal operations and overall performance, so they can use data to support their next move.
If you don’t report effectively, you’re apt to fall quickly behind everyone in terms of innovation, efficiency, and growth.
On the other hand, reporting can also go wrong – and in many different ways. If you spend too much time or effort on your reports, the ROI of reporting begins to drop.
If your reports aren’t clear or consistent, they can muddy your decision-making, instead of lead to better decisions. Perhaps worst of all, if you mismanage your reporting, reports can be an active source of disinformation or misleading intelligence, which ultimately takes your company in the wrong direction – while wasting time.
Signs Your Reporting Strategy May Need an Overhaul
Here are some of the clearest signs your reporting strategy demands an overhaul:
Uninformed decision-making.Good business decisions are properly informed, and good reporting can make useful information both abundant and clear. If you feel as if you’re making most of your moves in the dark, or you don’t have access to the crucial data you need, that’s a clear sign you’re not reporting adequately. You may or may not have access to the relevant figures, but better data streams and reports can get you to a much stronger place.
Inconsistent or unreliable processes. Some businesses have reporting problems because of inconsistent or unreliable processes. They might only generate reports as needed, or their reports focus on shifting variables, which makes it difficult to compare apples to apples. Consistency is key if you want to use data well.
Reporting software usability issues. Maybe all your reports are solid, but it takes forever to generate and distribute them. If you sense your recording software has major usability issues, or your reporting capabilities are limited by the functionality and intuitiveness of your platforms, your business may be in need of an overhaul.
Data with no context. Too many people who generate and read reports focus on numbers alone, rather than trying to understand the context for those stats. In isolation, metrics can be useless; you have to understand what they really mean.
Reporting overload and fatigue. Too few reports is obviously a problem, since you lack the crucial information to make effective decisions. But too many reports can also be problematic. That wastes time, makes it harder to tell which data is crucial, and complicates decision-making.
Over-reliance on visuals.Data visualization has revolutionized the way we interact with and interpret information. For the most part, that’s been a good thing: with visuals, data becomes much more intuitive at a glance and easier to communicate to others. But if you over-rely on visuals, it can distort how you interpret the data. Visuals simplify and streamline the analytics process, but they can also obscure vital takeaways, such as outliers.
Meaningless KPIs and benchmarks. It’s valuable to use key performance indicators (KPIs) and benchmarks to guide your absorption of reports and data. If you’re tracking too many metrics, or you’re not sure how they relate to the health of your business, they can be problematic, even overwhelming. All your KPIs and benchmarks should possess strategic meaning.
Repetition and duplication of effort. Your reporting may need revision if there’s too much repetition or duplication of effort. Do you have seven different reports that amount to the same thing? Do you have many different managers who produced similar reports?
The Roadmap to Better Reporting
Fortunately, most of your reporting problems can be cleared up by the following:
Better software. Good software should make reporting easy. Most platforms that support reporting offer automatic reporting; they’ll assemble the most important pieces in a consistent way and distribute the reports however you like. An investment in better software can make this an even more intuitive and time-saving process.
Strategic goals. Reporting is only useful if you have strategic goals and a vision. What good is a report if you don’t even know what you’re following or why the report exists? Spend some time clarifying your data analytics strategy and make sure it’s in alignment with your business goals.
Consistent execution. It’s also vital to remain as consistent as possible. Different leaders and employees within your organization may have divergent philosophies about reporting; they are welcome to bring their opinions to the table, but you all must be united behind the same high-level vision.
If your reporting strategy does turn out to require an overhaul, don’t mourn the time you’ve already lost. Instead, look to the future and instill systems and practices that will lead to much more efficient and valuable reporting strategies.